Motion Versus Action — BIG Difference Between the Two

Maryanne Pope
2 min readMay 14, 2022

“Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something.”

– James Clear, “Atomic Habits”


I know a truth when I hear it — because it feels like I’ve just been hit across the forehead with a two-by-four. Pretty tough NOT to notice…and pay attention. Then take action.

This happened to me a few weeks ago, while listening to a Brene Brown podcast. Brene was interviewing James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habits; An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.”

James was talking about the difference between motion and action and how easy it is to get caught up in researching, planning and strategizing about what you are going to do…instead of doing what needs to be done i.e. taking action.

Oh boy. Guilty as charged.

I tend to spend too much of the early part of my workday thinking, planning, strategizing, and making task lists instead of getting my butt in the chair, sooner, and DOING the tasks.

So then, not surprisingly, when I reach the end of my workday, I usually still have a big pile of tasks that didn’t get finished because I ran out of time. Sure, I got my high priority tasks completed early in the day. But the lower priority tasks do still need to get done…at some point.

I knew I needed to read “Atomic Habits.” Immediately.

The book is a game-changer. I can see why it’s sold over 2 million copies.

“We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action,” says Clear. “I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same.”

“When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning,” the author continues. “Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.”


“Action, on the other hand, is the type of behaviour that will deliver an outcome,” writes Clear. “If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action.”

Oh boy. That one hit home for this writer.

And then I read this sentence…

Read more.

Maryanne Pope

Maryanne writes blogs, books, screenplays & play scripts. She is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions & Co-Founder of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.